Barclay-owned Very Group appoints Zahawi as chair

Nadhim Zahawi

Liverpool-based online retail and financial services firm The Very Group, owned by the Barclay family, said it has appointed former UK chancellor Nadhim Zahawi as non-executive chair and board member.

The Very Group also operates digital retailer Littlewoods.

Zahawi was fired as Conservative Party chair last year after being found to have committed breaches of the ministerial code by failing to be transparent about his tax affairs.

Zahawi has acted recently as an unofficial adviser to the Barclay family on the future of its businesses.

On February 28, The Very Group announced it agreed a new long-term partnership with investment firm Carlyle and Abu Dhabi-based international investment house IMI to support its growth strategy.

The partnership included a £125 million funding package.

“Mr Zahawi, who recently announced he will stand down as an MP at the next general election, will replace current non-executive chair Aidan Barclay, who assumed the role as a representative of the Barclay family on an interim basis in February 2024 following the stepping down of Dirk Van den Berghe at the end of his contract term,” said The Very Group.

“Mr Zahawi will work closely with the current directors and management team to achieve continued sales and profit growth, as well as exploring expansion of the business in new areas.

“In addition, he will work with the shareholders on the strategic options for the business and the optimal capital structure to achieve its growth ambitions. This may involve fresh equity investment in the short to medium term.

“Mr Zahawi, who is a patron of economic think tank the Adam Smith Institute, became the Conservative Member of Parliament for Stratford-on-Avon in 2010.

“He has served in some of the most senior and high-profile ministerial roles in the British Government, including as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Secretary of State for Education.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, he was appointed Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment and led the successful rollout of the UK’s vaccine programme.

“He has also held roles at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Department of Health and Social Care.

“Prior to his political career, Mr Zahawi was a successful business leader in the UK and globally. He co-founded and was CEO of pioneering digital polling and market research specialist YouGov, which capitalised on advances in data analytics and the internet to develop its online-based survey methodology.

“During his tenure, the UK-headquartered firm expanded globally, establishing operations into the Middle East and the US, and joined the London Stock Exchange.

“Mr Zahawi was born in Baghdad, from where he and his family fled Saddam Hussein’s regime to the UK when he was 11. He was educated at King’s College School in West London and holds a degree in Chemical Engineering from University College London.”

Aidan Barclay said: “I am delighted to welcome Nadhim to the board of The Very Group. With a proven track record in digital growth and innovation, and highly respected in the UK and global markets, he is ideally suited to lead our board as the company enters its next stage of strategic development and growth.”

Zahawi said: “I am honoured to be asked to join the board and become chair of The Very Group. As one of the UK’s largest digital retailers and flexible payments providers, the company has an important role to play in helping families get more out of life.

“With a heritage of over 100 years, Very has an unrivalled knowledge and understanding of its customer, demonstrating resilience even in the face of challenging conditions …

“I am excited about the strategic opportunities for the group and look forward to working alongside the management team as they further develop and grow the business for the future.”